Friday, 24 November 2017

Pairs at the Club

Last Monday Phil Moon and I played in the Buchanan. We rather boldly put ourselves into the matchpoint points for Division 1 and 2 players, although neither of us plays for any team at the moment. But we were prompt, completed a half-table, and played reasonably well, finishing on 53%.

We got off to a great start. In fact, my highlight was on Board One. Defending against 1NT I counted that declarer had four winners for the last four tricks, but then realised that if I trapped him in dummy he couldn't get them all. A proud moment.

On the very next deal I picked up this monster hand:

♠ AKQ9654 ♥KJ43 ♦- ♣J2

When partner opened 1♥ I hatched a plan. I began with a 4♦ splinter, then after the expected 4♥ reply I cuebid 4♠. This was met with a cuebid of 5♣ and I was able to bid the slam. This was the full deal:


Phil decided to finesse Hearts for some reason resulting in an overtrick. Of the seven times it was played five times the contract was 6♥, then oddly once each for 3♥ and 3♠.

The hand above was my longest suit, but Phil kept on getting big hands. In general, these distributional hands didn't go well for us. Here's one below:


After North opened 1♠ Phil overcalled 5♦, the bid he was probably going to make anyway. With a good attacking hand South bid on to 5♠. With the West hand I tried 6♦. North pushed on to 6♠, and Phil had a think. To my horror, he pulled out 7♦, which was doubled. I thought I had a bit of defence and we might be able to beat 6♠, but in fact we can't, as long as they finesse Hearts (which they ought to after the 5♦ overcall). 7♦x-4 for -800 was worth 0% of the matchpoints, but in fact was a good sacrifice. Once they bid 6♠, we're stuffed. So maybe it's my 6♦ bid that cost us.

Later Phil had a solid nine-bagger in Hearts, and went for an immediate 5♥ overcall. This was doubled and one off, another bad one when they had no game their way.

I was dummy a lot, and only seemed to play 3NT contracts. That is until this hand, which I present as a play problem:


Phil opened 1♦, I replied 1♥, and he rebid 1NT showing 15-17. Since we don't play Checkback Stayman I jumped to 3♥, which Phil raised to game.

Looking at all four hands you can see that the defence can beat the contract easily with a Spade to the Ace, two Clubs and a Club ruff. You can also see that I have ten top tricks by drawing trumps and running the Diamonds. But of course, it's different for defence and declarer without seeing all the hands.

At the table, North lead the ♥J. My plan was to save the Diamonds until I'd drawn trumps, and try and ruff a Spade along the way. So I lead a Spade up. Things looked very rosy when South took his ♠A, and returned another trump. I won this in dummy, played a Spade to the King and ruffed a Spade. If I can just draw trumps now I'm guaranteed ten tricks even if Diamonds don't split, via 5 Hearts, 2 Spades including the ruff, and 3 Diamonds. But the problem is I'm stuck in dummy. On this layout I can just play three Diamonds, but I didn't know that.

Instead I lead a Club up to the Jack, reasoning that even if it lost worse case would be that I would lose a Spade and two Clubs (and my ten tricks weren't going anywhere - I was thinking of overtricks in fact). Then to my dismay, not only did North produce the ♣AQ she then gave her partner a ruff for one down.

I think I played it right though.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Social Game

Last night John Faben and Phil Moon joined Anna and I for some social bridge. It was a very enjoyable evening, the only disappointment being some gluten free biscuits.

We played a series of Chicago movements and generally bid and played pretty accurately. Featured below is the best hand I got; where of course I overbid:

No one vul
S deal
♠ A 9
♥ K Q 9 4 3
♦ A K 6 5 2
♣ A
♠ Q 4 3 2
♥ 8 5
♦ J 4
♣ T 8 6 4 3
♠ 7
♥ A J T 2
♦ Q T 7
♣ K J 9 7 2
♠ K J T 8 6 5
♥ 7 6
♦ 9 8 3
♣ Q 5

First hand vulnerable John opened a Weak Two, with a poor hand but decent Spades. I figured if he had even ♠KQxxxx slam could be good, so launched straight into Blackwood. I then had a vague thought that we might be better in Hearts or Diamonds but it was too late now, and John replied showing one Ace. I then asked for the Queen of trumps, which was denied, so settled for 5♠.

Unfortunately John's only points outside Spades were the fairly useless ♣Q, so this was going to be a struggle.

He got a lead of a low Heart to the ♥A and ♥J return, then drew trumps losing one to the ♠Q. He now needed the rest. Under the pressure of running his trumps West had to discard the ♣K which gave declarer another trick but that was only his tenth (five Spades, one Hearts, two Diamonds, two Clubs). I thought you might be able to make it if you both ruff the Club in dummy and set up Hearts for a Diamond discard, but I'm not sure if you've got the entries for that.

I just put the hand into Bridge Solver (with the exact spot cards above, which might not be accurate), and it confirms that only 10 tricks are available. If you try and set up the Hearts you end up ruffing too many times in your hand, and West gets a long trump trick. So North's exuberant bidding is to blame.

At the end of the evening Anna emerged as the individual winner.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Nice day for bridge

On a family holiday in Nice I made contact with a couple of local Bridge Clubs, but we never quite made it. Instead we played a few hands in the villa. Our opponents had just been taught overcalls, and this was one of the demonstration hands from their lessons:

No one vul
S deal
♠ x x x
♥ J T x x
♦ x x
♣ A J x x
♠ A K J x x
♥ x x
♦ K T x
♣ T x x
♠ Q x x x
♥ Q x
♦ Q 9 x x
♣ K Q x
♠ x
♥ A K x x x
♦ A J x x
♣ x x x

I opened the South hand 1♥, West overcalled 1♠ and North raised to 2♥, just as the teaching notes suggest. Now East has a decision. In the beginner course in Norwich Bridge School the responses to overcalls are more or less the same as responses to opening bids, so with 11 points East should bid 3♠.

I don't think this is a particularly good system, as when responding to overcalls playing strength and number of trumps are much more important than High Card Points, but it keeps things simple. Here, East only bid 2♠, not unreasonable.

I then bid 3♥ as South, just competing the hand with a known nine card trump fit. This bid is not invitational, and Anna passed anyway with a minimum.

With trumps behaving there are an easy five trump tricks, two Aces and two ruffs in dummy so 3♥ made easily.

Despite having more High Card points if East-West get to 3♠ they will do well to make it. They need this lucky layout in Clubs with the Ace onside, and also to find the Jack of Diamonds.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Scottish Schools Bridge Championship

Last week I took 11 pupils to the Stirling and Union Bridge Club for the Schools Championship. This is the third time I've been, and I think it was the best yet. As in previous occasions, the battle was between us and Hutchesons' Grammar School, and they took the prizes. There were eight teams altogether:

1st Hutchesons' Manta Rays
2nd Hutchesons' Coyotes
3rd HSOG Beetroots
4th Aberdeen Plus
5th HSOG Dragon Fruits

Report on SBU website here.

This was the most exciting hand

My pupils have between 0.5 and 2.5 years experience, and we've barely got on to slams. So I was delighted to see that my top pair bid 6NT here, and they even got the Spade finesse correct for an overtrick. Some other less experienced declarers played in 3NT and made 11 tricks. It's a good teaching hand, as 12 tricks are guaranteed as long as you do the seemingly obvious thing of tackling Spades before cashing all of your winners.

The Hutchesons' Seniors were more adventurous. The Coyotes bid to 7NT, via keycard asking for Kings and Aces, and the Manta Rays somehow got to 7♠. Both pairs made 13 tricks, and you can't do better than that.

The winning team with coach John Dimambro

The Cauliflowers

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Playing from the wrong hand

I played in a Charity Teams Event at the Buchanan Bridge Club last week. On one hand declarer won a trick in dummy, then played a card from his hand. The card was already on the table, when dummy pointed out that it was from the wrong hand. I was the defender last to play, and said that I accepted the wrongly played card. Dummy then chimed in to say that declarer can "do what he likes", and could change his card if he wanted to (no one else had played yet). It didn't really matter, to me or anyone else, so declarer put the card away and lead from dummy.

I think I was right though - declarer cannot show a card from the wrong hand then play from the correct hand, as the wrongly played card could be viewed as fishing to see how the defenders react.

Here's the full deal:


Presumably North-South were playing a Strong NT as North opened 1♣. I had the 15 point East hand but settled for overcalling 1♥. The opponents finally settled in 2♠.

I won the Heart lead then switched to a Diamond, which declarer won in dummy. He then lead the ♣J from hand, and I thought "great I'm going to win my ♣K" and so accepted the lead, before we agreed he should play from the right hand. But maybe my eagerness made him suspicious, or he just wanted to continue the suit he'd committed to playing, because he then lead the ♣A from dummy without finessing.

After that we defended well. I recognised the possibility that partner might have the missing ♠Q and ruffed a trick high, and we went on to score Spade tricks separately and reduce declarer to 2♠-1. This gained 4 IMPs when our team-mates played the unlikely contract of 2♣ from South (South was starting an escape from 1NTx and North left it in). Even more surprising is they made it. Why was no one playing with Diamonds as trumps?

The event was the Erskine Charity Handicap Teams. There were eight teams, and before the handicap was applied we scored 68/140 VPs, for 5th place.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

What happens if dummy plays the wrong suit?

What happens if dummy doesn't play the suit that declarer asked for? Normally everyone notices and it's quickly corrected. But what if declarer doesn't notice and plays a card too, and only then notices the mistake?

That was the situation last night, in a teams match at the Buchanan Bridge Club. Here's the full deal and auction:


I sat East and despite the vulnerability went for a risky third in hand weak 2♥. South doubled and I got a bit worried when Phil raised me to 4♥. As he said afterwards, he was stretching, and I'd already stretched. South now bid 5♦, passed out, and hit a fine dummy. On the first trick Phil lead the ♥K, which of course declarer won with his Ace.

At trick two declarer called for a Heart, but dummy played a small Club. I was East and also heard "Club" so played a Club, and declarer didn't notice the error so discarded a Club. Phil also thought declarer had asked for a Club, and saw three Clubs in front of him, so of course followed suit and won the trick with his ♣A. At this point declarer noticed the error and the director was called.

The director (who was, incidentally, our team-mate!) ruled that there was no way of telling who had said what but since declarer had played a card himself without correcting the mistake the trick stood.

Fortunately, it didn't matter as declarer still had twelve tricks, and can never get more than twelve. At the other table our team-mates collected 1100 for 5♥x-4.

The event was the Buchanan Congress Teams, for which Phil and I had partnered Ricky Finlayson and Horst Kopleck. They produced a couple of great boards, including 1♦xx-2, and we made a lot of games and bid three slams. In fact the only two game swings out I can blame myself for. Firstly I ducked an Ace against a slam ("Classic Danny" Anna said with delight when I told her), and on the other one we failed to find 4♥:


I transferred to Hearts, went as far as 3♥ but couldn't quite make it to 4♥. We beat 3♠ by a trick but lost 11 IMPs. About half the tables in the Men's and Women's congresses got to game.

Overall we finished on 110 VPs out of 140 to top the standings.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Don't alert any doubles in Scotland

In Scotland, no doubles or redoubles are alertable. This, I suppose, is the SBU solution to how to cope with the myriad meanings of doubles that people play. It seems reasonable enough, but caused us to come unstuck last week. It was Matchpoint Monday at the Buchanan Bridge Club, playing with Phil Moon.


I was not too surprised to be doubled in 3♠, as we had clearly been pushed up a level in a competitive auction. But then North revealed that South's original double (of 1♠) had in fact been penalties. If we'd have known this we certainly wouldn't have bid up to 3♠, but, as they pointed out, in Scotland no doubles or redoubles are alertable. I suggested that perhaps they could have let us know about this before the start of the round, and North apologised and offered to call the Director. I said no, and grimly played the hand. At least I knew where the trumps were, and was delighted to finesse the spades;7 on the first round. It was still off for -500 and 16%.

The reason I think that North-South should let us know about this unusual double before the start of the round as otherwise it means you have to ask about every single double, just in case it's something odd, which gets a bit silly. Indeed, North-South said themselves that they play all doubles as penalties "except in obvious situations", though clearly they have a different for obvious than me!

After this mishap, things went rather well for us. For example, consider the hand below.


I had the East cards and was poised to bid a reckless 2♠ if 2♥ was passed out to me. Then when it came round to me in 4♥ I considered a bold 4♠ sacrifice. If partner had a few good cards, surely I could scrape together seven tricks for three off doubled and a good score at the vulnerability? I bottled it though and passed. As it is, we were lucky and declarer misplayed the hand for 4♥-1 to give us 72% (just losing out to those who got to defend 3NT).

In fact, with a very suitable dummy I might make eight tricks in 4♠x, but going two off or three off would have both resulted in a score of 56%, so perhaps I should have done it.

Our roll of good fortune kept up until the last round. Then in the last three boards we threw it away as I misdefended, we went off an extra trick in game, then I arranged a score of 0% on this deal:


I was North and opened 1♣ (rather than 1♦ giving a 2♣ rebid) and when Phil replied 1♥ I settled for 2♣. Phil now jumped to 3♥, which some might play as forcing, but we were on the same wavelength as I took it as invitational. But rather than make a disciplined pass I made a very poor bid of 3NT. Phil trusted me far too much and passed this - with his long Hearts he should maybe bid 4♥ as he knows I won't have many entries to his hand in 3NT.

In 3NT I got the expected Spade lead. I was hoping for a dream dummy, with a few clubs (maybe even the Queen) and a couple of quick tricks. I didn't get it though. With the very favourable Club layout I could in fact have taken seven or eight tricks, but I didn't play for it, and my bidding matched my play and I went off four. Holding it to two off would have still only got us 26%, whereas 3♥ might make or go off one for a good score on a misfit deal.

We finished on 55%, coming 12th out of 52 pairs. Without the last three boards we would have won the event, but then if you take away your worst three boards you're always going to do a lot better.